The Nigerian Supervising Minister of Science and Technology, Omobola Johnson, stunned the National Conference Committee on Science, Technology and Development, as well as the entire citizens of the country on Tuesday when she revealed that less than one percent of the national budget was allocated to the ministry.
This revelation that the ministry is grossly underfunded increases our doubt that the country will meet its much touted bid to become one of the most industrialised countries in the world by the year 2020. It’s a mirage that the target could be met in six years’ time.
This year, the ministry got a budgetary allocation of N36 billion out of N4.9 trillion approved by the National Assembly. To a layman, this is a huge amount, but when considered in relation to the 17 agencies under the ministry, then that amount becomes ridiculous for a ministry that is supposed to be the driver of Nigeria’s 20-20-20 industrialisation goal.
All the agencies in the ministry have N35 billion while the remaining N1 billion goes to the ministry. All things considered, we believe the Federal Government is merely paying lip service to the technological development of the country.
The Appropriation Bill usually passes through the Senate and the House of Representatives with both promising to srutinise it to make sure it addresses the needs of the country. But these legislators have failed the people, given their ability to understand the country’s desperate needs.
Most countries of the world are growing very fast and this is because of the primacy accorded science and technology in the scheme of things. Such tecnologically advanced countries encourage their citizens to move into fields that would advance not only those countries but also the entire world. Here in Nigeria, the reverse is the case. The government relies on data and reports of foreign countries and organisations on its activities.
A critical comparison of Nigeria today with some countries that started the technological race with her, will confirm the sorry state we now find ourselves. These countries include Brazil, India, Malaysia, Venezuela, North and South Korea and a host of others. The Asian Tigers, as we know them now, got to where they are today due to huge investment in science, engineering and technology.
Now our leaders and other buoyant citizens run to India for their medical needs, they are good at purchasing the latest brands of cars and owning private jets just as they like to gallivant around developed countries. Unfortunately, they never return with any lesson for themselves or the country. As a result, we now find graduates of computer science who have never touched a computer, we find engineers who are more theoretical than practical. Thus we now have ‘square pegs in round holes’ orchestrating our backwardness.
This has led to even small projects being shamelessly contracted out to expatriates with a major consequence on the economy of the country. Nigerian leaders must provide more funding for science and technology if not we will remain in our 19th century cocoon where everything is obsolete.